Nirbhaya – the cry for justice

A young woman raped brutally in Delhi – an oft repeated headline. Another victim of bestiality, another faceless person vanishes off the face of earth but this time it is different. She hasn’t vanished without arousing the emotions of the nation and the world. Maybe it was the last straw on the camel’s back. And the knee jerk reaction of the mob is evident – there are protests raging the capital – pleas for justice, cries for execution and vociferous demands that the government must do something about this.

The public rage and outcry is very valid and justified. Rape is wrong – period. Under no circumstance can it be accepted or condoned. There is a need for action. However, I don’t really understand if people genuinely believe that government intervention can totally resolve this issue. Yes, with the right policy and the right set of messages, the government can help deter criminals but the issue is far more complex than that. There is a social side to the issue which people largely ignore. It is easy to execute the offenders but how is it going to resolve the issue? In fact it is easy, painless death!

I’ve heard men say – ‘legalise prostitution. This will minimise crime.’ That is the most outrageous suggestion! The message that comes across loud and clear is – ‘men will ALWAYS have kinks and can become inhuman to satisfy these kinks if need be. A woman is merely a body that facilitates the fulfilments of these kinks.’ The issue is not whether men are allowed to have kinks or not. The issue is more about finding a willing partner. If you can’t find a willing partner, it is not right to abuse a person. Are men so sexually repressed that they feel compelled to look for easy release? Are we so inhuman that there is no remorse or pain whatsoever? Is this why we hear so many reports of abuse within the family, especially child abuse? What kind of a sick human being can abuse a child to satisfy himself?

As a society, are have failed. Over centuries, we’ve perpetuated the view that women are possessions. Until they are married, they are the ‘responsibility’ of their parents, after they get married this baton passes to the husband and then to the son. How often have we heard statements like these ..

‘Never go out after dark and if you do make sure you have a male with you to protect you at all times.’
‘Girls from good families don’t roam around town during nights.’
‘Never wear anything provocative. You know that’s asking for trouble.’
‘Women should never earn too much. If they become independent, they become arrogant and are unfit for marriage.’
‘If a man strays he is a stud but if a woman strays she is labelled a slut. Be very careful. Your reputation is the most important thing.’
‘A successful woman is one who keeps her husband happy and content in every way.’

Would anyone think of saying these things to males? Aren’t these just ridiculous? If a gang of guys decide to attack you at night, they will attack you regardless of whether you have a male accompanying you or not. They might beat the poor accompanying male to pulp before attacking the girl. If girls do go out at night or dress provocatively, are we as a society so morally bereft that we see her as easy prey and force ourselves upon her?

In the same culture that idolises females as Shakti, there is a Sanskrit sloka in Niti Shastra that sums up the six virtues of an ideal wife:
Karyeshu Dasi – as hardworking as a servant
Karaneshu Mantri – as fantastic an administrator and advisor as a minister (Brilliant)
Bhojeshu Mata – as caring and nurturing as a mother
Shayaneshu Ramba – as wanton and adventurous in bed as the heavenly nymph Rambha
Roopeshu Lakshmi – as beautiful as Goddess Lakshmi
Kshmayeshu Dharitri – as patient and forgiving as mother Earth.
Shat Dharma Yuktah Kula Dharma Patni – And one who possesses these six virtues is the ideal wife.

Is there a set of virtues that sums up an ideal husband? The whole society has been crafted with rules that reek of double standard. Females start their lives on the back foot. Is there not a fundamental problem with the social tapestry?

When a girl is raped, we are scared of the reputation of the girl who has been brutally raped, not her emotions. We don’t report the crime for fear of being judged and labelled. ‘What if I can’t get my daughter married? I don’t want it to affect her life.’ Don’t they realise that her life has already been affected. Physically and emotionally, she will never be the same person ever again.

The government on its part can bring about change but this will only address part of the problem. To bring about total social reform, we all have a part to play in changing the mindset. For starters, women have to start believing that they are equal to men and build future generations that believe this too.

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